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Airbus A380: how the airlines compare


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Sister website Business Traveller brings you the definitive guide to how the airlines are deploying their A380s.

British Airways became the tenth carrier to take delivery of an Airbus A380 in July 2013, the first of 12 superjumbos that it has on order.

The airline rostered the superjumbo onto its Los Angeles route on September 24, followed by Hong Kong on October 22.

BA's A380 layout features 14 seats in First on the main deck, followed by 44 Club World seats in a 2-4-2 configuration, then 199 World Traveller economy seats in a 3-4-3 layout (to see a seat plan, click here).

The upper deck has a further 53 Club World seats in a new 2-3-2 layout, followed by 55 World Traveller Plus seats also configured 2-3-2, and then 104 World Traveller seats in a 2-4-2 layout.

Thai Airways received its first A380 in September last year. It now has four superjumbos in its fleet with two more on order and scheduled to arrive later this year.

Last October, Thai Airways' inaugural A380 entered service between Bangkok and Hong Kong. The airline now also flies A380s to Singapore, Frankfurt, Narita and Paris.

In July 2013, the carrier postponed its A380 service to London by 11 months until October 30, 2014, citing "important technical modifications."

Its superjumbos have 507 seats and are configured with 12 seats in Royal First Class, 60 in Royal Silk business class and 435 in economy.

First and business class cabins feature fully-flat beds, and all passengers benefit from AVOD in-flight entertainment systems, individual power sources, and wifi internet and mobile phone access.

Malaysia Airlines took delivery of its first superjumbo at the end of May 2012, before putting it into service on the flagship London-Kuala Lumpur service that July. For a review of the carrier's inaugural A380 service from London Heathrow, click here.

The carrier has six A380 aircraft on its roster after taking delivery of the 100th Airbus superjumbo in March.

It operates the double-decker on three routes from Kuala Lumpur - double daily to London Heathrow, and a daily service to Hong Kong and Paris Charles de Gaulle.

MAS had originally planned to offer a premium economy cabin on the aircraft, but eventually opted for a three-class configuration, with eight first class and 350 economy seats on the lower deck, and 66 fully-flat business and 70 economy seats on the upper deck.

China Southern became the first Chinese carrier to take delivery of an A380 aircraft in autumn 2011.

It now has five superjumbos, but operates them mainly on domestic routes - Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong - out of Guangzhou due to a dispute with Air China over flying the A380s from the latter's Beijing home.

As a result, China Southern has lost money on its A380s and only flies to one international destination, Los Angeles, although it recently announced plans to fly the aircraft to Sydney.

The carrier configures its superjumbos in a three-class layout, featuring eight first class seats, 70 business class seats and 428 economy seats.

South Korea's flag carrier Korean Air took delivery of its first A380 in May 2011 and, the following month, put the aircraft into service on routes from Seoul to Tokyo and Hong Kong.

The carrier was the first airline to dedicate the entire upper deck of the aircraft to business class, with 94 Prestige sleeper seats in a 2-2-2 configurations. However, SIA has subsequently also launched a second A380 configuration with an all-business class upper deck on its new A380 deliveries.

The upper deck of the Korean Air superjumbo features an onboard bar and lounge area for business and first class passengers, with smart blue and white seating, a flatscreen TV and bar area.

The lower deck features 12 first class and 301 economy seats, making a total of 407 on board the aircraft, the lowest number of seats for any A380 operator so far. SIA will offer 409 seats with its new A380 configuration.

Korean Air also offers an inflight Duty Free "showcase" at the back of the lower deck, occupying a space equivalent to 13 economy seats.

It's not the first time that an A380 operator has opted to use some of its precious onboard space for something other than seating – Emirates has showers in its first class cabins, while Qantas has a lounge area for its premium passengers located at the front of the upper deck, Air France has a digital gallery also at the front of the upper deck, and Singapore Airlines famously offers double beds in first class.

Having two full passenger decks has given A380 operators plenty of scope in terms of aircraft configuration, and as you can see from this table each carrier has opted for distinct layouts.

The only constants are the presence of an economy cabin on the lower deck (albeit in some cases in conjunction with a smaller economy cabin on the upper deck), and all airlines have opted to place business class on the upper deck. However, British Airways has bucked this trend by splitting its Club World cabin between the upper and lower decks.

The carriers disagree on the best place for their first class cabins, with Emirates, Lufthansa and Thai Airways opting for the upper deck, and Qantas, SIA, Air France, Korean Air, China Southern, Malaysia Airlines and BA all choosing to locate their most premium seats on the lower deck.

It should also be noted that both Emirates, Qantas and SIA have more than one configuration for their A380 aircraft.

In the case of Emirates, the carrier has a 489-seat layout which includes a crew rest area at the back of the economy cabin, necessary for its longest flights served by the superjumbo, whereas routes to the UK, for instance, use A380s without this crew area, meaning there are an additional 28 economy seats in the cabin.

In terms of economy, Korean Air has the fewest seats at 301, followed by BA at 303, SIA's recent configuration at 311, then Qantas at 332, which along with Air France and BA is one of only three A380 carriers to offer a premium economy cabin.

Emirates' A380s, which are configured without the crew rest area, have the largest economy offering at 427 seats, followed by the Lufthansa aircraft at 420 (all on the lower deck).

Air France has the most seats overall at 538, some 131 seats more than the Korean Air 407-seat layout. But all of the current capacities will pale into insignificance compared to the 840-seat layout planned by Air Austral.

Forthcoming A380 operators

  • Air Austral
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Etihad Airways
  • Hong Kong Airlines
  • Qatar Airways
  • Skymark Airlines
  • Transaero Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic

 

Useful links

Businesstraveller.com and seatplans.com have a wealth of information on the airlines currently operating A380 aircraft, from images and videos, to seatplans and flight reviews.

Here are just a few links for each A380 carrier which you may find useful - for a full list of all A380 articles published by Business Traveller, including new routes and product information, click here.

For a table showing the seating layouts on the lower and upper decks and across all classes for each A380 operator, click here.

By Mark Caswell and Graham Smith